In a follow-up meeting on the state of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) on Thursday (31 October), cabinet has directed the Department of Transport to continue work in finding a solution to the e-toll impasse.
The meeting, in which the task team appointed by president Cyril Ramaphosa presented options on how to move forward with the system, comes a day after finance minister Tito Mboweni doubled-down on the government’s commitment to the user-pays principle in paying for the road scheme.
Speaking in his medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) on Wednesday, Mboweni said that after considering a number of issues, it was decided that government would remain committed to a ‘user-pay’ model, showing support for the e-tolling system.
He said that South African motorists needed to leave behind the culture of non-compliance, again imploring road users to pay up.
He added that there will be a further dispensation and value-added services under the new system and that compliance will also be strengthened.
In a statement following the Thursday meeting, however, cabinet said that it has resolved that further work needs to be undertaken in answering to the challenges posed by the options identified by the presidential task team.
“The Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula has noted the directive of the cabinet on the matter of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), which incorporates electronic tolling,” the Ministry of Transport said in a statement on Thursday.
“Having duly noted the options presented, the cabinet resolved that further work be undertaken in answering to the challenges posed by the options identified. The task team will explore the directives of cabinet, continue engaging stakeholders and report back,” the Ministry of Transport said.
The minister said his department will communicate the details once the process has been finalised.
Civil action group Outa said that while the e-toll gantries might be here to stay, e-toll collections are not.
CEO Wayne Duvenage said that compliance under the tolling system is at an all-time low of 20%, and that the government has failed to address this issue for the past six years.
“Why is it so important for them to cling to a system that is the most expensive scheme in the world, which reeks of corruption from the road upgrade to the ETC contract, whose profits enrich a foreign company?”
“The roads cost 100% more than they ought to have and the ETC toll collection contract was inflated by 60% above the tender,” he said.
Duvenage said that it has become clear that government isn”t going to cancel the scheme, despite the fact that in virtually all government’s engagements with civil society and business organisations they were called on to scrap it.
He added that Outa was prepared to go to court over the issue.
“The test case that has been developed over the past two years has been abandoned or placed on hold for the past eight months by Sanral,” he said.